Have you ever wondered who created all those fonts on your computer? Type Foundries are the companies where most of those letters come from. In the old days, type foundries manufactured metal and wood type. Nowadays, type foundries design and sell typefaces, mainly as digital fonts. 

Woodtype | Photo by Threehaus

Woodtype | Photo by Threehaus

MacKellar, Smiths and Jordan Foundry, Philadelphia. Photo via Type. A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles. Vol. I

The word font is sometimes used interchangeably with typeface. And to be honest, it’s very confusing. They don’t mean exactly the same thing, and it’s something I find difficult to explain myself. Luckily for me I found an article online with a simple explanation that I believe clears things up. (Thank you Google)

Nick Sherman’s analogy: The way I relate the difference between typeface and font to my students is by comparing them to songs and MP3s, respectively (or songs and CDs, if you prefer a physical metaphor).

Stephen Coles agrees: When you talk about how much you like a tune, you don’t say: “That’s a great MP3”. You say: “That’s a great song”. The MP3 is the delivery mechanism, not the creative work; just as in type a font is the delivery mechanism and a typeface is the creative work.

Here are a few very significant type foundries:

BertholdThis type foundry produced one of my favorite typefaces – Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk (1896)

The Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk Type Family

The Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk Type Family

To promote their products, type foundries create Specimen Books. Here are some beautiful samples of Berthold's books, originally posted by Process Type Foundry.

I could look through this kind of book all day long!


The Bauer Type Foundry:

Futura Specimen via Collecting and/or Curating

Fundición Tipográfica Richard Gans:

Landmark, an architectural letter via Hoefler & Co.

Ziggurat   Type Family  via Hoefler & Co.

Ziggurat Type Family via Hoefler & Co.

House Industries: This type foundry has always produced beautiful catalogs to promote their products. When I started my graphic design career, House Industries was THE type foundry. Now, they not only produce typefaces, but also clothing, housewares, and other really neat decorative items.

Image via  House Industries
Image via  House Industries

Image via House Industries

AuthorSusana Gay